There’s a reason one of AMG’s most famous cars was nicknamed “Hammer.” The performance arm of Mercedes has a reputation of coming down clenched in a fist, pulverizing competition with the loudest, biggest engines and steely precision. So, when it came time to tackle its first electric performance sedan, a tuned version of the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz EQS580, AMG was faced with a dilemma. Is it enough to just turn up the power, or does an AMG EV need to offer a little more growl with its glide? Would you settle for more whoosh-whirr?
In appearance, the AMG EQS is only subtly different from the EQS580. Its rainbow-arch profile and short-nosed proportions don’t lend themselves to the usual wide-haunched and snarling shape of an AMG machine. Closer inspection brings hints at aggression with bars of vertical chrome instead of the starry-sky grille up front and a flick of ducktail spoiler at the trailing edge of the sloped rear deck. Other details, such as gloss-black accents, a chrome-trimmed front splitter, side air intakes (which redirect air ahead of the front wheels for better aerodynamic efficiency), and diffuser-style rear end will likely be spotted only by hardcore EQS watchers. The AMG badging is the biggest tip-off that they aren’t just facing a mere 516 horses, but a stampede of up to 751. During typical driving the motors put out 649 horses. Activating launch control uncorks the remaining 102, which should result in a 60-mph time of 3.4 seconds, according to AMG.
The motors whizzing the EQS past the speed limit are beefed-up versions of those in the EQS580. Whereas gas engines brag about coated pistons and titanium valves, electric motors get hot-rodded with upgraded windings that allow them to take a stronger current and thus produce more power. There’s a sameness to electric acceleration, but AMG makes an effort to hold onto its history of rear-wheel-drive excitement in Sport and Sport+ modes. Here, engineers gave the AMG EQS a slight rear bias to the torque delivery, and the stability control system allows for a little slide. In normal driving, the torque distribution is checked and adjusted 10,000 times a minute—so, about as often as you look at your delivery update after ordering a pizza—to prevent even a second of inefficient power delivery.
With that great power comes great responsibility—for the cooling systems. To keep the motors at a happy operating temp, there are liquid-cooled channels through the shaft of the rotor, as well as AMG-specific ribs that act as a heat sink on the stator, and ceramic fins on the inverter to do the same. The direct-drive transmissions are kept at the appropriate temperature via an oil cooler.
On our drive, the coolers were twiddling their ceramic-finned thumbs. It was an icy-cold day above Palm Springs, California, and the mountains were swaddled in a witchy mist. The conditions may have been challenging for the driver, but the EQS moved with confidence even around the slippery turns. It doesn’t feel small. The AMG-ification of this car didn’t include any major weight reduction—its curb weight is more than 5600 pounds—but it tucks its tail in and takes the corners with flat-footed authority. Rear-axle steering does its part to virtually bend the AMG EQS around turns, but the biggest difference from the standard car is in the control of the big body over bumps and rises. While the suspension is still multilink front and rear sprung by air bags, the components themselves are AMG-specific. Bushings, bearings, and mounts were redesigned or modified from other AMG models. Rebound and compression damping adjust independently of one another separately, allowing for a larger spread between comfortable cushioning and sporty control. The result is that the float and dive of the other EQS trims are gone.
The AMG EQS we drove came with carbon-ceramic rotors behind its 22-inch wheels. Six-piston calipers clamp the 17.3-inch front discs, but only if you press the pedal hard enough. You can adjust the regenerative braking via steering-wheel paddles to a maximum of 300 kW. This is enough stopping power to send you forward in the seat almost as violently as flooring the accelerator will push you back into it. The EQS will bring itself to a stop if it is in max-regen mode and following a vehicle ahead, but without a car in front, it creeps without a foot on the brake. This is important only to the most hardcore of one-pedal drivers. We found a lighter regen setting provided the most natural feel to the brake pedal and offered the most comfortable ride for our passenger.
Mercedes has yet to announce the range on the AMG EQS, but with a slightly higher coefficient of drag—0.23 to the ultra-slippery 0.20 on the EQS580—we expect it to be less than the EQS580’s EPA estimate of 340 miles. However many miles you travel, the 400-volt, 107.8-kWh, lithium-ion battery in the AMG EQS has been rewired for higher charging capacity and shorter charging times—around 20 minutes for nearly 190 miles—at compatible DC fast-charging stations. At home or work, where speedy fill-ups aren’t a concern, smart charging monitors temperature and load to maximize battery life.
If you do find yourself sitting at a charging station, there are worse places to spend your time than the cabin of the EQS. The glassy dash display stretches to the door panels, where the mood changes from glowing tech to soft quilted microfiber. The AMG model adds performance readouts in the instrument screen as well as to the head-up display. The latter is impressive in its format, but so large and distracting we turned it off. The computer-game element of many new cars—in particular, the electrics—may offer more to talk about, but when it comes to driving, the experience is rarely improved by pulsing, flashing lights in your field of vision. On the other hand, the audio options for the EQS do add a sense of excitement to the rather drama-free experience of electric acceleration. Turning the car on and off gets a rising and falling sound like a robot’s wakeup yawn, and the Performance sound accompanies your forward motion with a deep-space thrum. We got tired of it pretty quickly, but it should impress your friends, though not as much as the launch control will.
They’ll be having a lovely time in the EQS. The front seats are roomy and adjustable to the exact angle, temperature, or level of massage you could desire, and the rear seats are just as soft and elegant, although the sloping roofline cuts into headroom. The trunk is deep enough to set up house in, or at least curl up for a nap.
The AMG EQS goes on sale later this winter, and we expect it to start around $150,000, which puts it at the higher end in the field of luxury electric sedans. Of those, it beats out all competitors except maybe Lucid when it comes to interior and ride comfort but can’t compete against lighter-weight or more powerful offerings such as the Porsche Taycan Turbo S or Tesla Model S Plaid when it comes to acceleration and handling. The EQS delivers on its badge promise of power, but while it hits hard, it’s no hammer.
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